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roguelike

Dungeon League turns RPG action into a bloodsport

Aug 07 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]297396:59857:0[/embed] After a dungeon master expresses disappointment with seeing that heroes have lost interest in his labyrinths full of traps and other dangers, he decides to turn his creations into a competitive sport in order to attract adventurers seeking gold and glory. With the creation of the Dungeon League, travelers from all over flock to his randomly conjured deathtraps in order to acquire gold, defeat the opposition, and come out on top. Designed with local multiplayer in mind, Dungeon League re-contextualizes the dungeon-crawl setting and shapes it into an old-school RPG battle arena. From the standard deathmatch variants, territory capture, to the more unusual race gametype, which tasks players with dashing through checkpoints around the dungeon while taking swipes at the opposition, the game does a lot of cool things to the roguelike gameplay system. As you acquire gold and experience, you can level up between matches, upgrade skills, and buy new items from the league vendors. In traditional roguelike and MOBA fashion, character growth is all from the ground up in every game, so you'll have to prioritize which areas you want to focus on. In case it wasn't clear, Dungeon League is very self-aware with its approach to the dungeon crawler. There are several different classes to choose from -- such as the traditional archetypes like Warrior, Rogue, and Archer -- to more bizarre classes such as the rainbow-spewing Unicorn. It's a rush to fight through dungeons filled with nasty traps while cutting down hoards of monsters that get stronger with each stage. It'll take a lot to stay a step ahead of the opposing side and become the champion of the Dungeon League, so choose your class wisely. It's not often we get a unique take on the dungeon crawler, especially one that doesn't take itself too seriously. I liked how lighthearted things are in Dungeon League despite all the over-the-top action and bloodshed, and had a blast battling it out with friends. While there are some single-player options where you can battle waves of monsters, the real draw here is multiplayer, and Dungeon League is quite clever in its design. If you're looking for something a bit different that channels the old-school RPG aesthetic, then this is one you'll want to keep an eye on. Dungeon League [Steam Early Access]
Dungeon League photo
Out now on Steam Early Access
What happens when you turn hardcore RPG gameplay, with hints of roguelike elements, into a sport? Imagine having to grind and acquire loot in order to score points and one-up your competition. Sounds pretty wild for an action...

Review: Galak-Z: The Dimensional

Aug 05 // Chris Carter
Galak-Z: The Dimensional (PC, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: 17-BitPublisher: 17-BitRelease Date: August 4, 2015 (PS4) / TBA (PC)MSRP: $19.99 The way Galak-Z presents itself is by way of "seasons," which are supposed to be set up in a way that mirrors a television show of sorts. Players must complete five missions per season without dying, otherwise they'll be forced to start over from the beginning of that season. It's a way to justify the roguelike elements of the game (notably permadeath) and provide players with some respite for failure. While the idea actually works from a narrative standpoint, I found this style to be a bit more frustrating than it should be. Rogue Legacy handled progression brilliantly, allowing players to slowly accrue upgrades and "lock" maps into place when they wished. Similarly, Spelunky's shortcuts felt organic, like you were exploring a giant labyrinthine maze that was seemingly connected. Here, seasons feel isolated and disconnected -- you're essentially just completing randomly generated levels one after another. This is easier to swallow because of the endearing anime style of the game. It's a love letter to classic franchises like Gundam, but it manages to pack in a ton of 17-bit's signature look, from the decals plastered on the ships to the delightful VCR-styled menu screens. I also love the minimalist approach to storytelling, as each level may provide you with unique tidbits on the game's world, which are remixed, so to speak, after death. Having said that, I think the voice acting is dreadful, and not in a "so bad it's good way." Thankfully there isn't a whole lot of it. In terms of gameplay, this isn't a standard twin-stick shooter -- it's much deeper than that. After a quick tutorial, it's fairly easy to get the hang of the forward and reverse thrusters, the latter of which allow you to moonwalk (moonboost?) backwards to continue engagement. Pressing both of them allows you to brake, which provides pinpoint movement, as well as the ability to thrust cancel whenever you feel like it. Oh, and you can also press square to "juke," which has a little effect of your ship coming out of the screen and dodging bullets. It's really cool. Check out the full control scheme here. [embed]297236:59841:0[/embed] Sound plays a factor in the game as well, as a blue ring around your ship displays how far enemy units can hear you. Yep, your goal is going to actually be avoiding combat as often as you can, because again, death is a big deal in Galak-Z, and it sort of plays into the Last Starfighter vibe that the story is going for. It's also good then that shields can withstand environmental impacts for the most part and regenerate after a few seconds, so you won't have too many frustrating deaths. While permadeath is hard-hitting, you can earn temporary upgrades that will help you avoid your demise, exchange "Crash Coins" for instant upgrades, and locate blueprints, which grant the in-game shop permanent fixtures for future playthroughs. Note that while that blueprints are stocked for every session, you will still have to buy them with scrap (currency you'll find in the world), so you truly are restarting with nothing to your name most of the time. That right there is probably going to scare a lot of people away. While I generally don't mind a learning curve, there is some tedium involved -- more-so than most roguelikes. While many games don't have clear "objectives," and would rather see you explore at your own pace, the chopped-up level scheme doesn't always gel in terms of pacing. For some missions, I was able to fly right into a really unique area like a lava cave, blow up some bugs, and escape with a jump point relatively close to the objective. For others, I had to fly through a long network of caverns, find a boring box, blow it up, and then fly back for upwards of five minutes just to complete that stage. But for every randomly generated disappointment, there's an array of fun moments. Since multiple factions will attack each other in-game, it's a joy to pit them against one another, and slowly reap the benefits from afar with your missiles and all of the wonderful toys you've acquired through your current season. I don't want to spoil the transforming mech bit too much, but suffice to say it adds yet another layer on top of everything, and is just as satisfying as it sounds. Getting through a season and learning all of the tricks involved over time provides a clear sense of accomplishment, and you'll need to put in some work to reap those benefits. I wish Galak-Z: The Dimensional wasn't so fragmented, because the core experience is a treat for roguelike and space combat fans alike. Even 15 hours through I was still seeing new items and upgrades, which is a testament to its lasting power, warts and all -- I just need to take breaks from the tedium every so often. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Galak-Z review photo
Amuro Blu-ray
There aren't enough mech games out there. I mean sure, I grew up with Mechwarrior, G-Nome, Armored Core, and Heavy Gear, among countless others over the years, but it's still not enough. It's never enough. While Galak-Z does have some issues, it does manage to keep the dream mostly alive.

You aren't the hero in this RPG

Aug 02 // Kyle MacGregor
A Healer Only Lives Twice isn't a typical RPG by any means. Instead of putting the player in control of the prototypical hero, they actually have to defend him. After a light introduction, a warrior and the eponymous healer venture into a dungeon teeming with all sorts of dangerous monsters. The goblins, slimes, and other beasts advance toward the duo in rows, the leaders of which attack the "tank," while the rest wait their turn until a gap opens in the ranks. The only power players have over the tank is suggestion, telling him which row to attack while you see to his defense. The tank, despite his name, might as well be made out of glass and relies on the healer to vigilantly mend his wounds and cast various sorts of defensive buffs to reduce the effectiveness of oncoming attacks. You'll also be crafting items and learning skills on the fly to make your party more effective, which means you'll never be without something to do in the heat of battle. If the tank and healer don't succumb to their enemies, the healer's torch will eventually go out, at which point the journey will begin anew after allowing you to spend the experience you just earned on a myriad of different upgradeable attributes. This makes your quest easier at the outset, allowing you to go progressively further each time, as you learn more and become increasingly powerful. It's a really enjoyable little game that I'm glad I managed to pick up before it disappeared with scores of others when Sony turned off PSM's taps last month. Thankfully, A Healer Only Lives Twice is aptly named and won't be gone forever. Its creator has plans for the game in a post-PSM world. A Healer Only Lives Twice is primed for a Windows PC release sometime this summer, ensuring that a larger audience will have an opportunity to play this cute roguelike RPG if they so choose.
Doujin Dojo photo
But playing second fiddle isn't half bad
Doujin Dojo is a weekly column dedicated to spotlighting independent games from Japan and the people that make them. Every time I talk about PlayStation Mobile, someone inevitably mentions it's the first time they've ever hea...

Review: The Swindle

Jul 31 // Zack Furniss
The Swindle (PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox One)Developer: Size Five GamesPublisher: Curve DigitalRelease Date: July 28, 2015 (PC, PS3, PS4, Vita) / July 31 (Xbox One) / TBD (Wii U)MSRP: $14.99 I'll be honest, this review didn't come out on release day because I couldn't beat the fucking game in time. The Swindle starts off simply enough: the robotic police force that defends all of that sweet future funding projects a light in front of them indicating their line of sight. If you take a second to observe most obstacles and enemies, chances are you'll understand how they'll react in any given situation. That's the beauty of Size Five Games' newest creation: through its hand-drawn art and deft understanding of visual cues, a glance at your surroundings is usually enough to convey all of the information regardless of your location. With a general lack of tutorials, it's appreciated that there was a strong knowledge of mise-en-scène (ha! I've justified taking that one directing class now) involved in The Swindle's creation. A successful robbery goes as follows: from a side-scrolling perspective, your scoundrel will arrive at a procedurally-generated location ripe for the plucking. With a combination of climbing, sneaking, and watching, you just might be able to walk away with a considerable sum of money. Small vaults/chests/containers are strewn about, but aren't worth much. Computers (which are hacked through deliciously tense QTEs) are where you'll want to focus your efforts, as they offer the best payday. If you're spotted, you run the risk of dying and losing your character, though your purchased abilities are universal. The police will send increasingly deadly forces at you, but you can still get away if you reach your escape pod without dying. For the first 40 days or so, I felt like I was building a slow, subtle mastery over my surroundings. Though I started by robbing the poor to work my way up, the ramshackle security systems were enough to keep me vigilant. The intricacies of wall-climbing became more familiar to me, and various upgrades to my thieves expanded the possible approaches available at each newly-generated building. I watched many of these swindlers embrace sweet death via bullets, failed hacking attempts on explosives, and oh-so-many plunges off of tiled roofs. Each time, a new one rose with a new outfit and name: Lafeyette Weedbruiser lasted six successful heists before a wheelchair-clad robot shot her down from a magnificent double-jump. I eventually earned enough money to move onto the warehouse districts and the mansions. Each area was progressively more difficult but offered more lucrative lucre. I bought bombs, money-accruing bugs, and the ability to hack doors and security systems, feeling as though the Devil's Basilisk would be mine with days to spare. It wasn't until I purchased the right to try to pilfer from the casinos and banks that I hit an iron wall of challenge. Instead of skulking into buildings with multiple access points and hacking easily-reached computers for big bucks, I was relegated to picking up chump change and scrambling back to my escape pod before the tenacious security bots spotted me during one of my many slip-ups. The titular swindle is actually the final stage, where you attempt to steal the AI device. You need to be prepared for the big event by having the right tools and upgraded thieves, but you also need to pay for entry. Saving up £400,000 is already hard enough; however, failure requires you to pay the whole amount for each successive attempt. Since you'll be spending your hard-earned money on necessary upgrades like teleportation, triple-jumps, and being able to stop in the middle of a wall slide (seriously, buy this), that buy-in price makes an already difficult game feel ludicrously unfair. There are ways to buy extra days towards the end, but the price goes up each time. That's the game over screen, which I saw at the end of multiple attempts at all 100 days. I'm not one to balk at a challenge, but the finite lives combined with the money requirement of the last level feel like an artificial attempt to gate willing players away from the ending. I have no doubt that somebody is on Twitch at this very moment, controlling The Swindle with Donkey Konga drums ghosting through the final stage, but the vast majority of players will mostly find the latter half of the game frustrating. I think it's telling that most of the coverage I've read has only shown screenshots of the first few stages.  There's also the weird bloom effect that permeates some of your jaunt through London. While it makes sense to have your vision obscured when the alarms are blaring and the lights are flashing red, occasionally the screen is bloomed beyond belief and you can't discern the minutiae on the screen. I've committed almost-perfect crimes, hacking security systems and clearing out guards, only to land on an explosive I could barely see. Get used to seeing starbursts of paper money explode from your fresh corpses for the slightest of transgressions. The collision on spike pits also is a bit wonky, and I've died a fair few times just for standing close to one. Depending on the kind of player you are, you might just start finding exploits to accelerate your progress. I'm not all that ashamed to admit that I took advantage of bugs, which seem to go against the whole risk/reward theme of The Swindle. If you get close to a computer, you can place a bug that will siphon cash to your account at a rate of £/second. This goes directly to your account, so you can avoid having to run back to the escape pod to keep whatever you earn. The thrill of sneaking off with a sack full of cash is somewhat diminished when you can place a bunch of bugs and wait by the exit, but I found myself relying on this method in order to actually reach the Devil's Basilisk. Since hacking is accomplished via directional QTEs, you can just spin the stick in a circle without punishment (unless it's a mine, which will explode upon an incorrect input). I only did this once out of curiosity, but it feels like an unnoticed exploit. Hacking is my favorite part of the game, so I couldn't cheat myself out of that experience without feeling like a sad sack. For the record, I played on a gamepad, which was much more comfortable than the keyboard layout. The Swindle is nowhere near an entirely negative experience. It's a festival of moments, of anecdotes filled with failures and smiles. I found myself holding my breath as I hacked a computer with just enough time to dodge three heavy guards coming my way, jumped over two electricity traps, clung to a wall to let a patrol pass, and bombed myself a new escape route. These pockets of perfection kept me hooked, and made me boot up The Swindle again and again in order to preserve this world of rogues. That, and my dedication to you guys. Now, the Devil's Basilisk is for all of us to share. You're goddamned welcome. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
The Swindle photo
Steal shit, get hit
A band of thieves in Steampunk Victorian London has been tasked with preventing Scotland Yard's creation of the ultimate surveillance device: The Devil's Basilisk. If they fail to swindle said device in 100 days (read: lives)...


How the hell did Galak-Z hide a Gundam for three years?

Jul 24 // Steven Hansen
Let's recap for a second if you haven't been following along. Galak-Z is broken into five seasons each with five episodes. The fifth season will be added in for free post launch. This is one diversion from the typical roguelike set up, in that when you die, you don't start all the way at the beginning of the game, but rather at the beginning of whichever "season" you're on. "One of [Kazdal's] pet peeves with roguelikes" is that playing very beginning segments over and over can get boring, so this blends that death-based need to replay with earned progression. More typically, levels are randomly generated, and you get different fractions of story and dialogue every time. This way you won't hear the same repeated bits death after death, but slowly glean more information until you finally get through the season. The space shooting half we already knew about is not just a twin-stick shooter, either. The ship maps thrusters (and a boost) to the triggers. There's also a backwards thruster so you can shoot and flee, a dodge thruster, and a a barrel roll (square) that juts the ship "toward" you like it's coming out of the screen (and over incoming bullets on the 2D plane). You have your standard weapon and an Itano Circus missile salvo (limited, but you can buy more if you find the shop during levels). [embed]296589:59676:0[/embed] Ok, so the not-Gundam? You can morph the ship into the robot at any time with a smooth, Transformers-like animation and change up the playstyle completely. It has a beam sword, which can be charged for a stronger, wider attack, and a shield that has parry capabilities. Perhaps most fun, though, is the extending claw arm that can grab dangerous space junk and throw it at enemies, or grab enemies themselves, bringing them in close so you can start wailing on them with punches. Keeping the mech locked up this long is impressive. The feature was locked off in the many public shows Galak-Z has been demoed at and no one slipped up about it. Kazdal tells me there were plans for a third, stealth-focused character, initially, but that it made for too many mental hoops in dealing with all the other things that could be happening at any given moment. Galak-Z is smooth, feels great to play, and the mech is a welcomed addition, adding one more layer to the game. There are warring factions you can sometimes pit against each other, environmental hazards to be aware of (and sometimes use to your advantage -- thanks alien trapdoor spider who saved my ass!), and instant shifts between ranged and close-quarters combat. It's tough, gorgeous, encourages exploration (beyond mission goals, there are blueprints for new gear and other upgrades to find), and a ton of fun.
HANDS ON: Galak-Z  photo
Spelunky by way of Macross...and Gundam
We've covered the "Spelunky by way of Macross" space shooting roguelike for a couple of years now and the follow-up from Skulls of the Shogun developer 17-bit is almost here, coming to PS4 August 4 and PC a few months down th...

Roguelikes photo
Roguelikes

Roguelike Mega Collection brings 700+ free games into one torrent


Who needs sleep?
Jul 17
// Joe Parlock
Roguelikes can be huge games. With high difficulty, procedural generation, and plenty of RPG elements to sink your teeth into, you’re potentially looking at hundreds of hours of play out of just one title. And then some...
The Swindle photo
The Swindle

The Swindle gets down with the sneaky sneaky


Here's a PC preview
Jul 15
// Zack Furniss
I’ve just spent a few hours with Size Five Games’ (of Time Gentlemen, Please! and Ben There, Dan That! fame) newest offering, The Swindle. As a coalition of thieves in alternate-reality Victorian London, you&rsquo...
Crypt of the NecroDancer photo
Crypt of the NecroDancer

Crypt of the NecroDancer headed to PS4 and Vita


Dance Dance PlayStation
Jul 10
// Darren Nakamura
Well this is nice. Previously available only for Linux, Mac, and Windows, Crypt of the NecroDancer is now on its way to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Brace Yourself Games' community manager Heather Wilson made the annou...
The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth hits Xbox One, Wii U, and New 3DS July 23


Poo and tears for everyone!
Jul 07
// Zack Furniss
Rejoice, fans of fetuses and feces! The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth will be coming to the Xbox One, Wii U, and New 3DS on July 23. Please note the new there, as it will not be available on the older model. It's wonder...
Doko Roko photo
Doko Roko

Doko Roko looks magical with big swords and big explosions


Muy loco!
Jun 17
// Ben Davis
I don't care what anyone says, lovingly-crafted pixel art can still get me super excited about a new game. I know a lot of people are tired of pixelated indie games by now, but damn, they can be so beautiful! That's precisely...
The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

New boss teased for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth expansion


Rag n' Bone
Jun 03
// Zack Furniss
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth's expansion, Afterbirth, is shambling ever-closer. Yesterday, Tyrone Rodriguez of Nicalis teased a new boss, Rag Man. This mummy-lookin' homie has purple eyes, purple attacks, and the abilit...
Etrian Mystery Dungeon photo
Etrian Mystery Dungeon

Etrian Mystery Dungeon explores Europe September 11


Courtesy of NIS America
May 31
// Kyle MacGregor
Etrian Mystery Dungeon is coming to Europe on September 11, NIS America has announced. Destructoid's reviews baron Chris Carter was enamored with the game when it landed in North America last month, saying "the more [he] play...
Darkest Dungeon update photo
Darkest Dungeon update

Darkest Dungeon update adds two new characters, fresh terror


So good I almost had a heart attack
May 29
// Nic Rowen
Darkest Dungeon is my jam. I've been playing the hell out of the early access build and while I've had an absolute blast, I was reaching the bottom of the barrel in terms of current content. So it should come as no surprise t...
Desktop Dungeons photo
Desktop Dungeons

Brilliant puzzle roguelike Desktop Dungeons now portable


$10 for iPad and Android tablets
May 28
// Jordan Devore
With Desktop Dungeons now available for iPad and Android tablets, I can easily see it becoming an obsession all over again. This is $10, straight up; no in-app purchases, no bullshit. The Enhanced Edition's daily challenges a...
Rogue Legacy photo
Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy is still awesome (and aggravating) on Xbox One


Hustlin'
May 27
// Jordan Devore
The last couple of times we talked about Rogue Legacy coming to Xbox One, a bunch of you let the good vibes flow, so here's the bookend to that coverage: it's available now for $14.99. Better yet, the title is only $11.99 (20...
The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth to have daily challenges


Now I can suck daily
May 27
// Zack Furniss
In the months since November 2014, I've slowly developed some semblance of skill in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. While I've still got quite a lot of playing to do if I wish to earn the Platinum God achievement, I'm impresse...

Fighting games and roguelikes are my personal school of hard knocks

May 26 // Nic Rowen
Titles like The Binding of Isaac, FTL, Nuclear Throne and (my latest obsession) Darkest Dungeon make it their business to stymie and frustrate your futile attempts to get to the credits screen. They delight in throwing a wrench into the works, tearing apart promising looking runs or dungeon crawls with a few merciless rolls of the RNG. They move around the win conditions and goalposts from the traditional idea of “I gotta get to the end and dunk on the last boss!” to “oh God, please just let me survive a little longer this time.” Victory isn't just marked by, well, victory, but by discovery and learning. Seeing a new enemy, figuring out a new trick or strategy, and learning to avoid whatever awful thing killed you last time. Those small successes are what dubs a run a win. It's tough to turn that switch that demands progression off in your brain. It has been dutifully conditioned by years of games where victory is the expected outcome. But it's those wild unfair swings in a roguelike that completely mess you up that makes them so satisfying. The emotional roller-coaster of suddenly losing a beloved party member, or picking up an item that completely gimps your current build, or getting screwed by a few unlucky rolls that leave you facing almost certain doom. These factors that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to come up with new strategies broaden your horizons, you have to think about the game and really consider all of your options rather than relying on one or two recipes for success. Those runs that truly are hopeless? Well, they just let you appreciate the good ones a little more. It took me a long time to realize it, but fighting games are much the same when you get right down to it. While you always want to win a fight, just adding more notches to your W/L ratio isn't, and shouldn't be, the goal. What you really should be aiming for is learning. When Street Fighter IV came out, I was very hot-to-trot for some online play. I remembered dominating at SFII in grade school, all the hours I sunk into collecting every ending in Alpha 3 on the PS1, the times I used to rush through Marvel Super Heroes on one quarter in the arcade. I thought I was good at fighting games, and was looking forward to a chance to prove it. I swagged online like I was O'Hara from Enter the Dragon, obnoxiously breaking boards in front of Bruce Lee like it meant something. My fights ended up going about as well as his did -- Boards, and CPU opponents, don't hit back like the real deal. [embed]292757:58670:0[/embed] I'll be completely honest, I almost quit playing fighting games at that point. Nobody likes to lose, especially when you're losing at something that used to be a point of pride for yourself. Thankfully, despite its rough and tumble exterior, the fighting game community actually has a great attitude about these things. EVERYBODY loses. It's what you take away from those losses and how you come back from them that defines you as a player. Shortly after SFIV came out, I was introduced to David Sirlin's Playing to Win, a book that is all about the philosophy of fighting games and is as close to a bible for the fighting game community that exists. I remember when I first read it I distinctly thought “this guy is an asshole.” Playing to Win can be a very abrasive read if you come from a background of playing fighting games for fun. If you ever thought your next door neighbor was cheap for constantly sweeping in Mortal Kombat 2, or angrily called someone a “spammer” for repeatedly tossing out fireballs from across the screen, or think there is such as thing as too many throws in one round (a philosophy I can no longer recognize except in direct reverse), Sirlin's opinions will probably rub you the wrong way. These self-imposed rules and ideas about how the game should be played are the foundation for what he considers a “scrub mentality,” a mental framework that will always limit how far you can go in fighting games, and ultimately, how much joy you can derive from them. Embarrassingly, I saw a lot of that “scrub mentality” in myself. The way I'd get angry at “coward” Guile players for tossing endless sonic booms, or frustrated with people constantly choosing the blatantly over-powered emperor of Muay Thai, Sagat, for easy wins. But when you stop looking at what other players are doing as “cheap,” and start looking at your losses as learning experiences rather than straight out defeats, a lot of that frustration evaporates. It takes real effort and time, but when you internalize that outlook, fighting games become less stressful, more enjoyable, and infinitely more beautiful. Of course people are going to throw sonic booms as Guile, he's a machine made by the Air Force to do exactly that. It may be true that Sagat (or whatever character) is over-powered and easier to win with and disproportionally popular as a result, but how can you blame people for making a choice that will tip the odds in their favor? You have that choice and opportunity too, and if you decide to stick with a different character you'll just have to make peace with the fact that you'll run into tough matches and try and develop a strategy to deal with them. You can either get frustrated, stomp around, and quit/uninstall the game forever, or you can thicken your skin. Learn how to roll with the punches, and take something away from the mistake. Either figure out ways to avoid it in the future, or come to peace with the idea that sometimes things are out of your control. These are not new concepts, ideally we should always be trying to find the positive side to a set-back or learn from a mistake. But to me, at least, nothing else crystallizes the idea of learning from a loss into a rock hard truth than pitiless rougelikes and fighting games. And after spending so many years immersed in both genres, I like to think that I've been able to take those lessons and apply them to other areas of my life. It's not always easy, and I won't claim to be some kind of Zen master who never gets frustrated, but I know I'm definitely a more patient person now than I was five years ago.
Learning from failure photo
Learning from my (many) failures
The last few years of games for me have been all about defeat. Constant, unending, expected defeat. I think I'm better for it. It wasn't always like that. In fact, for most of my life, games have been all about completion, vi...

Rogue Legacy photo
Rogue Legacy

Xbox One owners can explore Rogue Legacy on May 27


Sword or whip?
May 05
// Jordan Devore
I'd like to use a time machine to, among other deeds, dissuade Brett from using the headline "Xbox One inherits Rogue Legacy" so that I might use it right now in this post. Hate coming up with these things. But, really, savin...

Space Beast Terror Fright is still my favorite Aliens game

May 04 // Rob Morrow
[embed]291473:58423:0[/embed] It's a nicely balanced starting point and does a very good job at maintaining a creeping sense of uncertainty each time you board a ship, while ensuring you have enough tools to stay alive for the time being. Battery life, motion tracker capability, and ammo count appear to be constants at the beginning of each run; however, the one inconstant I've noticed is the required number of DataCores you'll be tasked with finding and downloading. The required number changes for most every new run -- sometimes the number is as few as six, at other times it can be as many as 20 or more. At the beginning of each run you'll leave the security of the ship's airlock and enter into the infested vessel. You'd do well to stay on your toes from the very outset in SBTF, as you never know when or where the first wave of bloodthirsty killing machines is going to spawn. I've had rare experiences where I was blindsided within a few moments of exiting the airlock and I've also played through sessions where I didn't get my first contact until several minutes into a run. In some instances the alien spawns feel triggered by the player's proximity, in others, they give the impression that they may be set to occur after a certain amount of time has passed. As such, the spawn points and spawn times feel strikingly unpredictable, which helps a great deal to ensure that every run feels different from your last. I've mentioned the basic tools the game starts you off with, but one of the most useful assets in increasing the odds of your survival is the ship itself. Its numerous hatches can be sealed off strategically to prevent attacks from the sides and the rear, as well as to create multiple layers of security by locking down several hatches in a corridor; however, it should be specified, these are only temporary lines of defense. Once the hoard begins attacking your hatches you'll need to start planning your escape route as the aliens will quickly cut through the barriers. Alongside the sealable hatches, the ship also features powerful, AI-controlled turrets, which can be found scattered throughout the map. Once activated, these can be incredibly helpful allies in a firefight as well as competent sentries that will stand watch over sections of the map. As touched upon earlier, the central mechanic to progression in each run is the collection of the downloadable DataCores that are randomly spread throughout the floor of the ship. These serve two purposes. The most obvious is that they provide a framework for measuring your progression in the level and the second is that they are the means with which you'll be adding vital upgrades to your suit and equipment. The rewards for downloading DataCores are selected at random. You could luck out on your first download and pick up a helpful map that displays the layout of the floor you're exploring or you could get something relatively minor, like a slight increase to your light's battery. However, if you're really fortunate, you might get one of the most helpful upgrades you can have early in a run, the DataCore Pathfinder. Even without a map, this powerful upgrade is incredibly helpful for efficiently directing you to the nearest DataCore and is much better than the primitive positioning technology you start out with. Even if you don't get one of the better drops at the beginning of a run, more often than not, you'll get something fairly useful when downloading a DataCore. Whether it's a marginal but useful boost to battery life, an increase to the rifle's ammo carrying capacity, or an incremental upgrade to the suit's download speed, something usually drops to maintain the feeling that the character's abilities are improving. As you explore the ship and begin collecting the required DataCores, your HUD will alert you when breaches are detected and when sealed-off doors are compromised. While the information won't give you an exact fix on where your foes are located, it is a very helpful early warning that trouble's not far away. Your basic motion detector can also help out when enemies get close to your position. While the stock version of the detector won't show the aliens' precise location, it will tell you roughly how many meters away from you they are; so, by checking each of your possible exit points against that information you can make an educated guess which doorway might be your best bet for escape. The most beneficial upgrade to have in these stressful situations is the one for your motion tracker. If you happen to have that installed, enemy movement will be displayed on the map as pulsing white blotches, giving you a very good idea on where they are, where they're going, and where you should be moving next to avoid them. Once you've collected all the necessary DataCores, your positioning system will switch over from locating them and begin guiding you to the ship's reactor. Hopefully by this point you've acquired a good deal of the game's more helpful upgrades, because getting the reactor shut down and making your escape can be the most difficult part of the run and every little advantage you acquired up until this point will be needed. After locating the vessel's reactor, you'll need to activate a switch so that the protective walls surrounding it will begin to rise, exposing the four control panels necessary for disabling the system. At this point in a run, things usually start to get dicey. While you're preoccupied with deactivating the panels, this gives the space beasts that have spawned throughout the ship ample time to make their way to you, so be prepared to hold your position and keep the panels deactivating. If you move away from one for even a moment, you'll have to start the process all over again. If you've survived long enough to deactivate the four control panels, the ship will start an anxiety-inducing countdown timer letting you know how many seconds you have left to shoot your way through the hoards as you race back across the ship to the airlock. It's an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride of a finale and feels tremendously satisfying once you finally make it to the extraction point alive. The Early Access build of Space Beast Terror Fright is everything I loved about the original demo and much, much more. Since coming to Steam the game now sports local 1-4 player local co-op (online is currently in the works!), new level styles, adjustable muzzle flare brightness, and a slightly less ball-crushing game mode to ease in the newer players. Space Beast Terror Fright is priced at $14.99 and is available for PC.
Space Beast Terror Fright photo
I got 99 problems but a breach ain't one
[Disclosure: The developers put my name in Space Beast Terror Fright's random name generator along with a bunch of other people who showed interest in the game early on. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, ...

Review: Crypt of the NecroDancer

May 04 // Patrick Hancock
Crypt of the NecroDancer (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Brace Yourself GamesPublisher: Brace Yourself Games, KleiRelease Date: April 23, 2015MSRP: $14.99 It would be a criminal act to not immediately mention the music in Crypt of the NecroDancer as it plays a starring role and deserves the first-paragraph treatment. This is mostly due to the fact that music is interwoven into the gameplay itself. The player can only act in time with the beat, which is also when the enemies act. Said beat has a visual representation on the bottom of the screen to help players get accustomed to it, but after a short while most players will be acting based on the audio cue, not the visual. When done correctly, the music, movements, and sound effects line up to create something that can only be described as "groovy."  In a game where music is at the core of the experience, the soundtrack could have easily made the game fall flat. Thankfully, this is not the case. There are three soundtracks built into the game. The default music is by Danny Baranowsky, and it is amazingly brilliant and brilliantly amazing. The tunes for each level are varied, yet all of them are catchy. The other soundtracks are a metal remix by FamilyJules7X and an EDM version by A_Rival, and also assuage the eardrums. Regardless of music preference, players are bound to dig one, if not all, of these versions. It's also possible for players to import their own music for people who don't like good music, or just want to work with something different.  The game isn't just about boppin' along to some great music, though; there is a story at play here. There are cutscenes for characters between zones, and paying attention to them, as well as some in-game hints, alludes to a pretty big overarching story. It's split over multiple playthroughs with different characters, so it will take some time to reveal the whole thing. The lore is legitimately interesting, something many players may not be expecting.  Every action is mapped to the arrow keys. In fact, the game can even be played with a dance pad! There's a specific mode for dance pad play, which makes the game a bit easier since the control method is inherently more difficult. This also serves as an easier mode to introduce players to the game who don't feel they are up to the full challenge quite yet. When playing with a controller, everything is mapped to the face buttons, which can also be remapped to the player's liking. [embed]291156:58414:0[/embed] Attacking is as simple as pressing the direction of the enemy. Items and spells are also available, and are used by pressing a combination of two arrow keys. For example, to use a bomb, players must press down and left (by default) on the beat. Various weapon types will alter where enemies can be killed in relation to the player, and it is of the utmost important to know a weapon's attack range. When moving, the game will check if anything can be attacked first. So if a player is expecting to move forward but an enemy is within attack range, the attack will happen. This means the character will remain stationary, which can be bad news in certain situations. Knowing these attack mechanics is crucial, and thankfully there is a weapon range in the game where players can try out all the different types of weapons and learn them inside and out. I recommend doing this at least once, especially for the whip. In addition to weapons, players have access to a shovel for digging through walls, a consumable item, a torch, armor, a ring, and a spell. Armor is split up into head, chest, and feet, making there a lot of items to equip for a full "set." The items found are random so make sure to pray to RNGesus before each run! Many items must be unlocked before they show up in chests within the dungeon. Unlocking items is permanent and costs diamonds, which can be found in the dungeon itself. Any diamonds not spent in between runs are lost forever, giving the player all the incentive in the world to spend them on something. It's the perfect system of progression in a game that otherwise has very little, ensuring that even the "terrible" runs can usually yield some sort of good news and contribute to the greater good. The dungeon is split into four distinct zones, each with its own atmosphere, enemies, and randomly generated layout. The first two are on the simpler side of things, but the third and fourth zones introduce new tile mechanics and are completely unique. It's amazing how fast confidence plummets after beating one zone and entering another. It's easy to be on a bit of a high after beating a boss for the first time, only to be introduced to a brand new area where players know basically nothing. It's a kick in the pants, and it feels so good. Speaking of the boss fights, each one in NecroDancer is incredibly memorable. Each one has its own theme and executes it perfectly. My favorite is definitely Deep Blues, which puts the player against an entire set of chess pieces as enemies, who move according to the chess ruleset. Seeing a boss for the first time usually results in a bit of laughter followed by an "oh shit" as the gravity of the situation sets in. Then death, of course. Some bosses are definitely easier to comprehend than others (I don't want to use the term "easier in general"), and the boss fights at the end of zones one through three are randomly chosen, which exacerbates the feeling of luck that's inherent in the roguelike genre. There's likely going to be some aggravation from time to time, simply because of bad luck. This frustration is lessened because of the diamond system, but the feeling of futility is occasionally hard to fight back, especially when there's nothing left to spend diamonds on. While each zone shares some common enemies, the enemy variety in each zone is largely unique. Some weapons may feel overpowered in one zone, and completely useless in another simply because of the change in enemy behavior. This makes the "all zones" runs that much harder. Some enemy types will be "buffed" in later zones, adding more health or variants on the original behavior. After completing the four core areas, there is still plenty to keep players occupied. Crypt of the NecroDancer also supports mods, and they are dead simple to use. All you have to do is download a mod from the Steam Workshop, then activate it from the pause menu. Many of the mods are currently music changes or skin changes, but only time will tell how far they go in the future. Different characters are also unlocked by accomplishing certain goals, and these characters are way more than just re-skins of the main character, Candace. The Monk, for example, can choose any one item from the Shopkeeper for free, but will die instantly if he lands on gold. Considering gold is dropped by literally every enemy, this forces a huge change in playstyle. I couldn't even get past the first zone! In addition to the standard dungeon, which can also be tackled with two players in local multiplayer, there is a boss fight arena, an enemy behavior trainer, a codex for advanced skills, a daily challenge, and a level editor. Beating the game once is really only the beginning. There are enough variations on the basic playthrough to keep players coming back for a long time. Crypt of the NecroDancer accomplishes what few games even attempt to do. It merges together two completely different genres: rhythm and roguelike. The frustrations of both come as part of the package, but some intelligent design decisions help to alleviate the issue. For those looking for the next gaming obsession after the likes of Spelunky, Binding of Isaac, or Rogue Legacy, look no further than Crypt of the NecroDancer. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
NecroDancer review! photo
Tunes from the crypt
Dance Dance Revolution was a large part of an earlier era of my life. Going though dance pads year after year until I finally convinced my parents to get me one of the "big boy" pads for a lot more money. Eventually I gr...

Isaac Eternal Edition photo
Isaac Eternal Edition

Binding of Isaac: Eternal Edition update is a free helping of torment


The Devil's in the patch notes
May 03
// Nic Rowen
A free update for the original Binding of Isaac has been released today for anyone who has the Wrath of the Lamb expansion. The new Eternal Edition will let you relive all of the glory of the original game's choppy flash base...

Review: The Weaponographist

May 03 // Chris Carter
The Weaponographist (PC)Developer: PuubaPublisher: MastertronicReleased: April 29, 2015MSRP: $9.99 The Weaponographist is designed to be a lot like recent "roguelikes" (whatever that term means these days), and I'd like to think of it as a mix between The Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy. The setup this time around for constantly going in and out of random dungeons is by way of a witch's curse, forcing the hero (who is a bit of an asshole) to rescue a town. He's cursed to fulfill his obligations, and after death, will constantly respawn in town until he succeeds. It's a cute setup, but that's really the only neat thing it has going for it. With plug and play controller support, picking up Weaponographist is easy enough. Each face button will attack on its respective side, and as part of your curse, picking up weapons constantly is key as they'll break over time. If you don't have an item handy you can use your fists until you find another one, pick it up, break it, and repeat. This is the cookie-cutter formula for pretty much every modern roguelike, but unlike a few recent hits, it gets stale after a scant few runs. Townsfolk will have a few upgrades for you here and there, like better fisticuff training, more complex weapon combos with specific armaments, and spells -- a small mechanic that allows you to occasionally bust out fireballs and the like. The problem with the upgrade system is that it's not sexy in the slightest. There's only a few boring purchases available at any given time, most of which passively increase your stats in a non-visible or menial manner. I like the way combat is handled, at least in theory, as you need to constantly kill things in rapid succession to increase in power, and the "break, find" items force you to experiment and get out of your comfort zone. Ultimately, the Isaac comparison ends at the top-down boxed dungeon aesthetic, because it's much less inspired than Edmund McMillen's masterpiece. Every room functions like an arena, with very little in the way of exploration or hidden secrets. There's simply not enough variation, and the amount of time spent in individual rooms is way too long and the end result is grindy combat. As a hypothetical free PlayStation Plus title, The Weaponographist would have some room to flourish as a mindless hack and slash game with a poorly implemented, but nonetheless existent, reward loop. But as it exists right now in its sole PC incarnation, there are many more titles worthy of your time -- including that 1000th run of Isaac you've been putting off.
Weaponographist review photo
As cursed as its hero
When The Weaponographist was described to me as "a speedrunning hack-n-slasher dipped in a bit of rogue sauce," I barfed a lil' bit. Playing it didn't do much to assuage my illness.

Royals photo
Royals

'You have died at 30 as a lowly peasant and will be forgotten'


And we'll never be royals
May 01
// Jordan Devore
That headline -- quite the game over message, huh? Royals, a new game from Threes designer Asher Vollmer that is not at all like Threes, pins itself as "an optimistic peasant simulator." You set out to become a king, a queen,...
Phantasmal Early Access photo
Phantasmal Early Access

Lovecraft-influenced roguelike Phantasmal creeps onto Early Access


Sanity-eroding survival horror meets procedural generation
May 01
// Rob Morrow
New Zealand-based indie studio Eyemobi has released its Kickstartered survival horror roguelike Phantasmal: City of Darkness onto Steam Early Access. If you're unfamiliar with the project, Phantasmal is d...
The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

Check out The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth on the Wii U GamePad


23 glorious seconds
Apr 29
// Zack Furniss
When The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth came out last November, I got sucked back into the dark, dank basement full of doo-doo for a good two months. This video of Isaac on a Wii U GamePad is enough to get me thirs...
Nuclear Throne photo
Nuclear Throne

Nuclear Throne nets one million in revenue while in Early Access


Y.V. knows what's up
Apr 28
// Ben Davis
Nuclear Throne, the indie game where you run and gun as a colorful cast of mutant creatures in a radioactive wasteland, has reached one million dollars in revenue, Vlambeer's Rami Ismail announced yesterday. That's an impress...
Roguelike Sale photo
Roguelike Sale

Surrender your will to the pitiless RNG with Steam's roguelike game sale


I wasn't doing anything with my life anyway
Apr 23
// Nic Rowen
From now until April 27, Steam is slapping a discount on a wide selection of roguelike games. You can get 20% to 80% off titles like Abyss Odyssey, Risk of Rain, Spelunky, FTL: Advanced Edition, and more. If you were ever cur...
Desktop Dungeons photo
Desktop Dungeons

Desktop Dungeons gets new free content, mobile versions incoming


New classes, new quests, and a daily challenge
Apr 20
// Darren Nakamura
Reminder that Desktop Dungeons exists is not what I needed right now. Last time I played I got really into it, to the point where I needed to quit cold turkey in order to enjoy other aspects of life, like eating solid food o...
Free Tower of Guns photo
15 codes to give away
After a month of PC availability, the first-person shooter roguelike combo Tower of Guns has just made its way to Xbox One and PlayStations 3 and 4. It's available for free on the latter through PlayStation Plus this month, ...

Tower of Guns photo
Tower of Guns

The console ports for Tower of Guns are pretty all right


Raised my tower for sure
Apr 14
// Jed Whitaker
The roguelike first-person-shooter Tower of Guns recently launched on Xbox One and PS3 / PS4 as a PlayStation Plus title after last month's PC launch. You're tasking with traversing a tower literally made of and filled with g...

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